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Emma E. M. Stewart, Preeti Verghese, Anna Ma-Wyatt; The spatial and temporal properties of attentional selectivity for saccades and reaches. Journal of Vision 2019;19(9):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.9.12.
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The preparation and execution of saccades and goal-directed movements elicits an accompanying shift in attention at the locus of the impending movement. However, some key aspects of the spatiotemporal profile of this attentional shift between eye and hand movements are not resolved. While there is evidence that attention is improved at the target location when making a reach, it is not clear how attention shifts over space and time around the movement target as a saccade and a reach are made to that target. Determining this spread of attention is an important aspect in understanding how attentional resources are used in relation to movement planning and guidance in real world tasks. We compared performance on a perceptual discrimination paradigm during a saccade-alone task, reach-alone task, and a saccade-plus-reach task to map the temporal profile of the premotor attentional shift at the goal of the movement and at three surrounding locations. We measured performance relative to a valid baseline level to determine whether motor planning induces additional attentional facilitation compared to mere covert attention. Sensitivity increased relative to movement onset at the target and at the surrounding locations, for both the saccade-alone and saccade-plus-reach conditions. The results suggest that the temporal profile of the attentional shift is similar for the two tasks involving saccades (saccade-alone and saccade-plus-reach tasks), but is very different when the influence of the saccade is removed. In this case, performance in the saccade-plus-reach task reflects the lower sensitivity observed when a reach-alone task is being conducted. In addition, the spatial profile of this spread of attention is not symmetrical around the target. This suggests that when a saccade and reach are being planned together, the saccade drives the attentional shift, and the reach-alone carries little attentional weight.
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